AG Loses Bid To Reinstate Prior Restraint Against Newspaper

A New Jersey appeals court handed the state a loss on April 24, 2017 in its effort to gag the Trentonian and its reporter from writing about a 5-year-old boy who brought drugs to school.

At issue was a child-abuse complaint obtained by reporter Isaac Avilucea, who was represented by MARC partner Bruce S. Rosen.

Publication restraints had been in place for five months during arguments over the order’s legality. In March, a trial judge dissolved the restraints after finding that Avilucea obtained the documents lawfully. The Trentonian then published the documents, omitting the boy’s name.

Noting that the information in the complaint had been published, Appellate Division Judges Mitchel E. Ostrer and George S. Leone rejected as moot the state’s motion for an emergent stay of the order that allowed publication.

The judges also found that the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency did not show that the relief was needed to prevent irreparable harm. In addition, they noted that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Rosen said, “The court could have just checked off the box that said ‘denied.’ Instead, it issued a strong, seven-page statement against prior restraint that was virtually unequivocal in its ne.”

Read the order, the supplemental order and a sample of media coverage in New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency v. T.F., M.L. & E.W. v. The Trentonian & Isaac Avilucea.

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